The Tables Are Turned

There are few things more frustrating than a toddler who has decided to be bad. In this case, it was C. We have been trying to teach him "table manners" – no yelling at the table, be quiet when other people are talking, no feet on the table, and so on.

A week or so ago, he decided to be Bad. During dinner he was yelling. Not yelling words, just yelling. "Ahhh!", "GrrrOUR!", and that sort of thing. J was doing her best to get him to stop.

J and I have an agreement: when one of us is taking care of a situation, the other does not interfere (unless it’s requested). In this case, she was having a tough time. With her hurt foot, she couldn’t get out of her chair very easily. C knew this and was pushing the envelope as far as he could. For example, whenever N would make a sound, C would go back to his worldless yelling. As soon as J spoke to him, he’d stop. It’s worth noting here that there are no fire alarms within view of the kitchen table.

J was doing the best she could, but it was driving me crazy. Finally, in the middle of one of C’s bouts of yelling, I slammed my open hand down on the table. The theory was that the sudden noise would shock C back into being reasonable. The fact was that I was frustrated, annoyed, and tired.

My hand hit the table so hard it knocked over the salt and pepper, made everyone jump, and shot little tingles of pain all the way up to my shoulder.

C stopped yelling. J looked shocked. N laughed and waved his arms. I love N.

I looked at C. He was clearly scared, but instead of being cowed, he chose the angry route. Before I could say anything, he pointed his finger at me and shouted. "No! No banging on the table!" I was stunned into silence, and he continued.

"No banging at C! You have to be nice to C! You have to be gentle. Understand? Do you understand?"

I looked over at J, but she was firmly and clearly on his side. Gathering myself, I mustered a defense, "Listen, I banged because I had to get your attention. You were shouting and we have to use table – "

This time, he banged his hand on the table. "No! No banging! You have to be nice! Apologize. You need to apologize to me."

The problem here is that I was caught. We’re not supposed to bang on the table, and we’re definitely supposed to be nice. I had given him the perfect excuse to teach me most of the lessons I had been trying to teach him.

J knew it and wasn’t even trying to hide her smile.

I tried several other verbal tactics, but C stayed the course. I sat through several minutes of him shaking his finger and lecturing before I couldn’t take it any more and stood up to start the dishes.

You know you’re on the ropes when doing the dishes is your best alternative.

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